The minister responsible for the status of women says Newfoundland and Labrador is introducing a new centralized phone line for domestic violence.
Carol Ann Haley has not been vocal during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite women’s groups expressing concern over heightened violence rates against women across the country as victims become trapped inside with their with abusers.
The minister says she doesn’t need to be front and centre to address women’s issues — the way Education Minister Brian Warr and provincial seniors’ advocate Suzanne Brake have discussed their respective concerns in the past — during the province’s daily briefings, and says there’s plenty of work happening behind the scenes.
“I don’t think the public needs to see a different minister every day. That’s not what this is all about, really,” Haley said Wednesday.
“I think people need to have the information and see and feel the impacts of the work being done.”
On May 5, a panel of women dedicated to equality urged government to use COVID-19 recovery time to address underlying gender-based problems, and presented the province with a list of recommendations, including the domestic violence hotline.
Haley said her department has contacted Paul Mills, who is leading the province’s post-COVID-19 recovery, to ensure each department applies a gender-based analysis.
She said she’s been working “extremely hard” to launch the phone line, which she said will incorporate an easy-to-remember number with texting capabilities.
No timeline has been given for when it will be up, but Haley said an announcement should be coming soon.
“We are doing our part. We’ve been working very hard. In fact, my department reaches out to all the women’s organizations on a weekly basis in respect to the changes they see, if there’s an increase in calls or trends they are seeing,” Haley said.
“I’m told we are at status quo with respect to calls, but I expect hat will increase once some of the restrictions are lifted post-COVID-19.”
In late April, the Avalon Violence Prevention office noted an increase in calls for assistance. Similarly, the St. John’s Status of Women Council told the Telegram it has also seen an increase in calls.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, however, says it has not seen an increase but noted incidents of domestic violence are often underreported.
Haley said a lot of the work done in the office involves securing federal funding for organizations in the province that offer front-line services.